Month: January 2014

Award Winning? Smitten Chili

 

It’s game time!  No, I don’t mean the NFL Playoffs, but come to think of it….go 49ers!  It’s chili cook-off season and after seeing the decked-out golden ladle trophy my colleagues created to acknowledge the winner I decided to bring my A-game to this year’s high school throw down.

Our cook-off is an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAannual tradition that has helped fund school projects and student scholarships.  This year our proceeds are going to a cause close to all of our hearts–supporting our principal and his family while he begins his battle with leukemia.  I know our chili entries will make him proud!

This year my A-game is a modified version of a chili recipe originally published by America’s Test Kitchen.  Using their recipe as a model I made a few minor tweaks that will hopefully lead me to victory tomorrow at high noon in the high school cafeteria.  (Two confessions at this point.  One, I prefer chicken chili and two, I’ve entered the same chicken chili recipe two years in a row to no avail so I’m benching the poultry and starting the beef).

Smitten Chili required a serious time commitment this Sunday afternoon and resulted in some delayed essay grading that will be waiting for me when this post is published–but the golden ladle is on the line, sleep sacrifices must be made!

Check out the recipe below to see my best effort toward winning the golden ladle trophy tomorrow.

Step 1 ingredients: 4 dried ancho pasilla  chiles, 6 California dried chiles, 6 TB cornmeal, 3 tsp dried oregano, 4 tsp cumin, 4 tsp cocoa powder and 1 cup of chicken stock.

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First, I broke the ancho pasilla chiles into 1 inch pieces (discarding the seeds and stems) and toasted them in a non-stick skillet until they softened and became fragrant (when they were ready to come out of the pan their consistency was similar to reconstituted sundried tomatoes).

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Next I put the toasted ancho chiles into my food processor along with the California dried chiles (sans stems and seeds), cornmeal, oregano, cumin and coco powder.  I processed these ingredients until everything was a smooth powder-like consistency (60 – 90 seconds).

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After the spices and chiles were combined, I slowly poured 1 cup of chicken stock into the processor while pulsing the mixture.  This created a tasty spice base that will hopefully give my chili an edge tomorrow!

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Step 2 ingredients: 2 large(ish) sweet onions and 2 jalapeno peppers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After putting the chile paste into a separate bowl, I roughly chopped up my onions and jalapeno peppers.  I put the chopped onions into the food processor and pulsed 5 to 6 times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext I added the jalapenos to the processor and pulsed both veggies 4 or 5 more times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then it was time to get cooking!  I added 1 TB of olive oil to my porcelain-coated cast iron pot followed by the onion and jalapeno mixture.  (Handy tip:  when cooking veggies don’t heat the oil prior to dropping in the veggies.  If you add the oil and veggies to a cold pan the flavor of whatever you’re cooking will be better preserved once you turn on the heat).  I cooked the veggies until they softened and were no longer watery – about 6 minutes.

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Step 3 ingredients: 6 garlic cloves (yes, I buy the pre-chopped stuff, it’s so much easier… 1/2 tsp equals 1 clove of garlic), 2 cans (14.5 oz each) of diced tomatoes and 1 TB molasses.

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It was time to add the garlic!  And cook it for about a minute (stir it consistently so that the garlic doesn’t burn).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter my garlic minute was up I added the tomatoes, molasses and chile paste to my veggie mixture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI stirred everything together and allowed it to simmer for 2 – 3 minutes.

Step 4 ingredients: 1 jar of (drained) pinto beans and 3 more cups of chicken broth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext it was time to stir in the beans and 3 more cups of chicken broth.  I brought everything to a boil (stir frequently to avoid your chile paste or beans from sticking to the bottom of your pot).  After bringing the pot to a boil I reduced it to a simmer (still stirring frequently) while I completed step 5 below:

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Step 5 ingredients: 3 – 4 lbs. of flank steak cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 1 (12 oz.) bottle of beer and 1 tsp of Wildtree Java Rub

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext a 1/2 TB of olive oil went into a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.  I added 1/2 of the meat and 1/2 tsp of the java rub.  Once the meat browned I transferred it to my slow cooker and completed the steps again with the other 1/2 of the meat and java rub.  I also added the beer to my slow cooker (mostly because it wouldn’t fit into the other pot!)

I should probably take a moment to clarify my choice of Shiner brand Black Lager.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law are the beer connoisseurs of the family and I had a few bottles left over from their most recent trip to GR.  Shiner Black Lager is rich and dark and seemed appropriate for a beefy chili…however the only other variety of beer in my fridge was a can of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shanty, so the choice was kind of made for me.  Happily the flavor is amazing!

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Lastly and carefully I added the ingredients that had been simmering on the stove to my slow cooker.  I cooked it on low for 5 hours before allowing it to cool completely.  The chile is going to rest up overnight in the fridge before reheating in my slow cooker for the big cook-off tomorrow!  Wish me luck!

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A fresh start

The new year always seems to bring a desire to renew, reinvent and reflect on everything from faith to food to family.  The duration of this renewing, reinventing and reflecting somehow seems to only last until mid-February if I’m lucky – can anyone else relate?  I need something to help me stay accountable and something to give me an outlet of creativity that feels lacking in my life somehow.  I should clarify that I am a full-time high school social studies teacher, so in truth the ability to be creative presents itself every morning at 7:50 am when 30 sleepy-eyed sophomores begin to stare at me and expect some entertainment.

More specifically,  I am looking to be creative in a zone outside of my conventional life.  I am one of those teachers who can legitimately say that I always wanted to teach.  In 2nd grade I wanted to teach 2nd grade, in 5th grade I wanted to teach 5th grade, so it’s probably no wonder that I ended up teaching high school.  I love my job but something seems to be missing and I am hoping this blog will help me find some answers.

My husband proposed to me approximately a year ago and also surprised me on that same day by closing on our first home.  I am a lucky girl who is ready to continue cooking, decorating and learning what it means to be in a lifelong partnership.  These loves made me consider starting a blog last year and what better time to begin a new chapter than in January…right, friends?

Well here we go…I’m Nicole and I’m Smitten in the Mitten and hoping to be Living my best life.

Jesse, Nicole & Wrigley